Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Is there a lesson to be learnt there?

The New York Times has an interesting story in today's paper. It is not completely unknown to those who follow such matters but neither is it written about particularly often in the media.

Jeffrey Gettleman contrasts Somalia, which has been a bloody mess (I use those words advisedly) for many a long decade and continues to be that with the possibility of African Union troops moving into Mogadishu to make it even worse help keep the current government in place with Somaliland, an area in the north-west of the country that claimed its independence in 1991 whent the most recent cycle of violence began.

Mr Gettleman describes the place as being stable and peaceful with a number of useful reforms introduced by the government of Somaliland. But he is puzzled. How can this be. After all, this area was traditionally one of the poorest in Somalia.

Furthermore, the country has not been recognized and has received next to no aid from the West, let alone the tranzis, who tend to be rather sniffy about break-away parts of African countries.

There are various problems in Somaliland, as the article points out, but compared to its neighbours it is doing very well.

Mr Gettleman is bemused:
In 1991, as Somalia’s government disintegrated and clan fighting in the south spun out of control, Somaliland, traditionally one of the poorest parts of Somalia, claimed its independence. But no country acknowledges it as a separate state and very few even contribute aid — which makes Somaliland’s success all the more intriguing.

Its leaders, with no Western experts at their elbow, have devised a political system that minimizes clan rivalries while carving out a special role for clan elders, the traditional pillars of Somali society. They have demobilized thousands of the young gunmen who still plague Somalia and melded them into a national army. They have even held three rounds of multiparty elections, no small feat in a region, the Horn of Africa, where multiparty democracy is mostly a rumor. Somalia, for one, has not had free elections since the 1960s.
Hmmm, I wonder if there is a lesson to be learnt here.


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